Starting XI Prediction: Mkhitaryan to inspire Manchester United against Spurs?


Manchester United face Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League at Old Trafford on Sunday. It will be United’s chance to cut the gap between them and Spurs, who have a big lead over them. United have stuttered in the Premier League recently after victories in cup competitions, falling to draws with their league opposition. United need to find the form to get the win against their rivals, or face not being able to finish high enough in the league to earn a UEFA Champions League place next season. Of course, United are still in the UEFA Europa League, having qualified for the round of 32 on Thursday evening, of which their opposition will be revealed in Monday’s draw in the competition. Ahead of that, though, returning to winning ways in the Premier League is important. United have not won in the league since the 3-1 victory over Swansea City on the 6th November, earning three consecutive 1-1 draws since. At home, United have not won in the league since the 4-1 victory over Leicester City on the 24th September, drawing four times at home since that victory. A win is long overdue at Old Trafford, and that should come this weekend.

Starting XI Prediction (4-2-3-1):

Goalkeeper – David De Gea

The Spaniard was rested for the UEFA Europa League victory over Zorya Luhansk in Odessa on Thursday night. David De Gea has played nearly every match this season, bar some cup fixtures, which will see him needing a rest ahead of the busy festive period. Over the past few weeks, De Gea has conceded some goals, which maybe could have been saved, that is not just down to him, but the defence, which over the same amount of time has been threadbare. Eric Bailly has returned to action, which was a boost in the Ukraine, which should solve some problems, albeit temporary due to the fact the Ivorian will disappear again in January to play in the African Cup of Nations. De Gea will benefit from the rest midweek, hopefully, put in a great performance against Tottenham Hotspur, pushing United for a first win in the league at home since September.

Defenders – Antonio Valencia, Phil Jones, Eric Bailly, Matteo Darmian

Antonio Valencia and Matteo Darmian were both left in Manchester and rested from the UEFA Europa League clash with Zorya Luhansk in Odessa, along with Michael Carrick. Valencia is the best option at right-back this season, especially against opposition who can get forward and pressure United in the area. Valencia is a strong player, quick on his feet and can cross magically, although over the past few seasons, this has not happened the way it should. Darmian might be a better option to play ay left-back, being that Luke Shaw is injured again and Daley Blind played in Odessa, so based on freshness, the Italian would offer more. The central defensive pairing will most likely be Phil Jones, rested in Odessa, and Eric Bailly, who made his first start after a lengthy knee injury, playing some good football, nearly getting injured again and also nearly seeing red. That aside, Bailly is a great defender, starting his United career with a bang and needs to continue doing that, clawing back some of the deficit between United and Spurs on their quest to finish in the top four this season.

Defensive Midfield – Michael Carrick, Ander Herrera

Michael Carrick was left in Manchester for the UEFA Europa League clash with Zorya Luhansk in the Ukraine on Thursday evening, knowing that his experience, calmness and ability on the ball would be needed against his former club. Carrick is a class act and one which Jose Mourinho has recognised and wants to keep at the club for another season whilst he identifies a suitable replacement for the veteran, who could already be at the club – Timothy Fosu-Mensah. Ander Herrera played in the Ukraine, but he needs to be a part of the midfield, based on his energy and what he adds to United’s game. The midfield two of Carrick and Herrera is a good fit, better than other options and if it keeps Marouane Fellaini off the bench, or even better still, off the pitch completely, there will be many content supporters out there.

Attacking Midfield – Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Paul Pogba, Anthony Martial

Henrikh Mkhitaryan needs to start in the Premier League against Tottenham Hotspur. The progress he has made over the last few weeks has really shown what the player is made of. I remember many slagging off Jose Mourinho about not playing him, but it was clear that he was getting him ready to make a big effect in the team – and that is what has happened. Mkhitaryan has recently been involved in three goals, one scored himself in Odessa on Thursday and two he assisted against West Ham United in the EFL Cup at the end of November. Mkhitaryan is a player that will go onto achieve such greatness at United. Paul Pogba will probably play in the number ten role, as he has done recently, despite him playing better further back. The fact that Wayne Rooney and Juan Mata both played in Odessa would seemingly rule them out, because of fatigue, but I could be wrong. Anthony Martial needs to come back into the side, giving Spurs some stick on the left-flank, which could get some good balls into Zlatan, or even for Martial himself to score.

Striker – Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The Swedish striker needs to start against Tottenham Hotspur, being the biggest threat to the North Londoners. 19 appearances this season, scoring 13 goals, which could easily improve this weekend, or even into next week when United travel to Crystal Palace. By the end of the year, Zlatan could be close to twenty goals this season, which would solve a problem United had last season. At 35, Zlatan really has not shown his age at Manchester United, playing much of the matches played, being rested during the three international breaks, being that he retired from international football in the summer after Sweden exited the European Championships in France. The Premier League title might be out of the equation this season, but being a winner, Zlatan will be happy with any trophy this season, and United still have a chance of winning three of them, maybe not all.

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copyright: JW

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